True Britt: Rookie tackle using everything at his disposal

Posted Aug 14, 2014

Rookie Justin Britt continues to work at right tackle on the Seahawks’ No. 1 offensive line. But he’s also using the experience of Eric Winston, the veteran he’s competing with for the starting job, to help with his transition to the NFL.

After practicing with the Seahawks for the first time last month, veteran tackle Eric Winston was asked about his role in possibly mentoring rookie Justin Britt.

“Any time that you become a vet in this league you’ve got an obligation to young guys that come after you to help them and teach them and obviously compete against them,” said Winston, who has started 119 consecutive NFL games. “I had the same when I was coming up in Houston. I had older guys that I was competing against, but at the same time took me under their wing.

“If Britt wants me to do that, then I’ll do that. I he doesn’t want to hear it, I won’t. But I’ll be here for him and always be here to help him.”

Flash forward to Wednesday’s final practice of the team’s training camp at Virginia Mason Athletic Center.

During the individual drills the Seahawks linemen go through before the official start of practice, there was Britt working against Winston. Noticing a nuance that needed tweaking in something Britt did on a particular play once practice started, Winston offered a few words of advice as they crossed paths – Britt leaving the with the rest of the No. 1 line, Winston coming on to replace him at right tackle.

These two players on opposite ends of their NFL careers – Winston is 30 and in his ninth NFL season, Britt is 23 and about to play in his second preseason game – are competing for the starting spot that opened with Breno Giacomini signed with the New York Jets in free agency. But they’re also teammates.

“Eric is great competition, but along the way he’s definitely helped me learn some stuff,” Britt said after Thursday’s practice, a final tune-up for Friday night’s preseason home opener against the San Diego Chargers at CenturyLink Field.

“So it’s been great having him here.”

Britt was expected to compete with Michael Bowie for the job. But Bowie is now with the Cleveland Browns after being waived with an injury designation because of a shoulder injury. The Browns claimed Bowie even though he is expected to be sidelined four to six months after having surgery.

Britt’s primary competition now is Winston – who made his first NFL start for the Texans in 2006, when Britt was just beginning his career at Lebanon (Mo.) High School.

Because of Britt’s rise-and-grind approach, you figured he would either wear Winston out with questions or not ask anything in case it might provide an edge in their competition.

“I love the competition,” Britt said. “I don’t want anything to be given to me. I don’t think anybody does. So I’m glad he’s here. He’s been around the block a few times, so he obviously knows stuff that I don’t and I would want to know if I’m going to be the pro that I want to be.

“So I’m going to use him as a reliable resource.”

The Seahawks liked Britt well enough to make him the 64th pick in May’s NFL Draft. He’s done nothing to change that, and even done enough to enhance the situation.

“Justin has had a really good offseason with us,” coach Pete Carroll said. “Everything I could tell you is positive. Like I’ve said before, he’s worked so hard because of his makeup. His mentality is really tuned in, it’s focused. He wants to do great. Asks all the questions. Stays late. Does all that stuff.

“So that’s really an impressive start for a guy to get that across to us.”

Britt played well in the preseason opener against the Broncos in Denver last week. But he is expected to – and expecting to – play even better against the Chargers.

“He did well in the first game. He’s played well in practice,” Carroll said. “He’s got a lot of great matchups against (defensive end) Cliff Avril, so he’s getting a good matchup every day. He seems to be holding his own.

“Eric is right there battling with him. He’s a little bit behind because he came in late. It’s a good competition, but Justin has really done well so far and we’ll just keep looking at the games as they come off and figure out what that means when it comes to regular season.”

Britt’s take?

“It’s been going pretty well,” he said. “I’ve got to get better and I know that. Every day is a challenge and I go out there with new goals every day. I’ll just keep doing that and keep truckin’ on I guess.

“The assignments I know well, and I’m not going miss assignments that often. But the technique, especially at the pro level, you have to be on it every play. So making what coach (Tom) Cable and the rest of the coaches coach and teach a habit is what I need to keep working on.”